In Recognition of Memorial Day: Five Stories from U.S. Veterans

Small American flags placed in the ground to honor American service members.

Today, Monday May 27, we recognize American armed service members who have died. Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday falls on the last Monday of every May. Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, tributes to fallen service members and the decorating of graves with flowers became the norm every Spring. But, it wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became an official holiday.

In recognition of Memorial Day and the service of countless young American people, the UW Tacoma Library would like to share stories from service members in the Puget Sound region included in our oral history collection, the Tacoma Community History Project. You can read their full stories (including transcribed interviews) by following the links below.

Dale Standley

Dale Standley

In this interview for the Tacoma Community History Project, Dale Standley, who served in the United States Navy describes his experiences before and leading up to World War II.

Standley was stationed aboard the USS Hatfield, a destroyer that patrolled the North American west coast during the second world war.

View the full project The U.S. Navy During World War II: One Man’s Experience by Constance Standley.

Merwin Peters

Photo of the USS Mason, courtesy of Concept News.

In this oral history, World War II veteran Merwin Peters describes his time on the USS Mason and his experiences as an African-American sailor serving just prior to military desegregation. There are frequent references are made to Mary Pat Kelly, whose 1995 book Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason brought the story of the Mason and her crew to public attention.

View the full project Serving on the USS Mason: Breaking Racial Barriers in the U.S. Navy by Shawn Boyd.

Ruth Nordstrom, Anne Gregory, Linda Wilhelm, Ren Wilson:

Ruth Nordstrom

In this collection of transcripts, four veterans reflect on their military careers and their connections to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at American Lake. This includes Ruth Nordstrom, who describes her time as an office clerk for Womens Army Corp during World War II and for Women in the Air Force during the Korean War; Ren Wilson, a former domiciliary resident, who recounts the social barriers she encountered as an African-American female officer; Anne Gregory, a psychiatric nurse, discusses her experiences in Vietnam; and Linda Wilhelm, a resident of the domiciliary, discusses her service time in the US Navy during the Vietnam era and describes some of the difficulties she faced as a gay woman in the military.

View the full project American Lake Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Crystal Graham.

Michael Royce

The Lewis-McChord Free Press, an underground anti-war newspaper.

In his interview with Beula Robb, Vietnam veteran Michael Royce discusses his time as a civil rights activist in the South and shares his thoughts on college life during the tumultuous 1960s.

Drafted into the army following his graduation from college in 1968, Royce reflects on his military experience at Fort Lewis and talks about his involvement with the Lewis-McChord Free Press, an underground anti-war newspaper.

View the full project Winning the Hearts and Minds of Fort Lewis and McChord GIs During the Vietnam Era by Beula Robb.

Gary Emmons

Gary Emmons, 1962. Photo courtesy of the Emmons family.

Colonel Gary Emmons served in the United States Airforce until changing careers and working for the Northern Pacific Railway as a telegrapher in the 1960s. This project provides a brief history of Emmons’ time in the Airforce and his work at the McCarver Street station, its operations, and other institutions that were intricately connected to the Northern Pacific Railway in Tacoma. Institutions discussed include McKinley Hill Hospital, the Great Tacoma Shops, as well as the decline and revival of downtown Tacoma and the restoration of Union Station.

View the full project Telegrapher for the Northern Pacific Railway in Tacoma by Karin Crelling.


The Tacoma Community History Project is a growing oral history collection. The projects are created by UW Tacoma students under the supervision of Professor Michael K. Honey and in partnership with the UWT Library. Click to learn more about the Tacoma Community History Project.

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